Darcia C. Tudor, JD, MA, WC
STAGES FOR DIVORCE & LEGAL SEPARTION
The following is an outline of the most common stages involved in mediation divorce or legal separation. After the initial meting all sessions are between 2.5 to 3 hours, and more than one stage may be completed in a session depending upon the complexity of the issues and the needs of the participants.
First Stage: The initial meeting is to orient you to the process, review and sign mediation agreement. You are asked to gather specific information and documents identified at the meeting. (60 minute session)
Second Stage: Discuss interim agreements regarding use of property, payment of debts, and family support.
Third and Fourth Stages apply only to participants with children
Third Stage: Discussion of needs of children, parental values and goals to develop a parenting arrangement for the participants in separate households. The development of the parenting plan may take more than one session to address specific concerns regarding parental capacity or special needs of the child.
Once the party’s agree to the terms of the parenting arrangement they have the option of reducing their terms to a memo of agreement (CR 2A) printed in session, or having the mediator draft an Agreed Parenting Plan Order. The memo of agreement memorializes the understanding of the parents, but must be reduced to a Parenting Plan Order and entered in court for it to be recognized by legal authorities.
Fourth Stage: Discussion of earnings and sources of income of he participants, as well as the extra ordinary expenses of their children relating to social, academic, athletic, artistic or musical activities to determine child support under the Washington State Child Support Schedules. It is essential that the participants have their financial information and records up to date and the Family Software data input for this session.
Once the party’s agree to the terms of the Order of Child and child support calculations the participants have the option of reducing the terms to a memo of agreement printed in session, or having the mediator draft an Agreed Stages of Mediation Order of Child Support with Child Support Worksheets which after entry in court it will be recognized by legal authorities.
Fifth Stage: Discussion of Division of assets, debts, maintenance, and other financial and support issues outlined in mediation agreement. Once the participants reach agreements on the remaining issues the agreement may be reduced to a memo of agreement printed in session, or the participants have the option of having the mediator draft a Property Settlement Agreement to be filed with the court or the King County Records Department. The primary difference between the memo and the PSA is its specificity, warranties, and disclosures pertaining to their agreement. It is recommended by the mediator that participants with assets in excess of 1 million dollars, real estate, maintenance or retirement provisions have their financial agreements put in the form of a Property Settlement Agreement, which will better protect the participants, interests and more accurately memorialize the terms of their agreement. The mediator prepares a draft of PSA and forwards it to the party’s for their review. Proposed revisions, if any, are jointly discussed in session and agreed upon changes incorporated into the final PSA.
Final Stage: The mediator reviews with the participants the list of associated legal pleadings, and the process, required by Washington State Courts to initiate and consummate their divorce. The participants identify which of these pleadings they desire the mediator to draft on their behalf, if any, and whether they desire to have assistance with filing the required pleadings.